Thursday, 22 October 2015

Garden Alchemy :: Basa Potato Cakes with Sweet Pepper Sauce

Maybe it's because I was born and raised in the city, that I get stupidly excited when a shrivelled old potato that started to sprout angry purple roots in the vegetable rack can give me back a whole colander full; if I just dig a little hole, bury the potato and water it every so often...Don't you think it's amazing. Or is it just me?

Or that a green vine with cute curling tendrils and golden flowers would emerge when I planted the seeds, saved from a butternut squash that we'd eaten.  Even when the flowers dropped off and I had to take off some of the leaves and prop it up on Bababozorgs old walking stick and the sunflower stalk and follow wise advice from the lovely Jane, to give it a good talking to...Gently but firmly...And guess what...It produced more flowers and they are still in tact. There's even a cute little bulbous protrusion on one of them. MY FIRST SQUASH...Can you see it?

Yesterday the wind blew most of the leaves off the plum tree and wafted the scent of the sweet peas and the honeysuckle around the garden. It was mild and balmy and smelt like spring all over again. A robin landed on the fork handle and I heard what I thought was someone cutting branches with an electric saw to fill up their woodpile. The buzzing got louder and an enormous bumble bee buzzed by my ear. The robin lingered to keep me company. Or probably just waiting for fresh worms, whilst I weeded the vegetable plot and dug up the potatoes and found the squirrels treasure trove of cobnuts. I even sneaked a peek at the baby carrots...They are growing with the fruit bushes in another bed but I'll leave them in the nursery to get a little bigger. 

While digging I remembered the piece of garden that was mine when I was seven. How I planted a potato and maize seeds, watering them with a can that was almost as big as I was. I checked them every single day until I couldn't wait any longer and impatiently dug up those minuscule pearls. Washed them and put them into my tiny silver toy saucepan with the shiny red lid and begged granddad to let me cook them on the stove... It's still just as magical to me today...

This is how I used some of my lovley homegrown potatoes... 

Basa potato cakes with sweet pepper sauce

Ingredients to make two small or one large cake each for two people: 
( I made two small and one large)

  • One basa or any other fish fillet. I like basa because it's creamy and milky in flavour, melts in your mouth and has few bones. Also because it's a not too fishy, fish that I feed Ahmad, who likes fish in theory, but not in practice.(About 120g for the two)
  • Two large potato (about 360-400g) Basically about three times as much potato as fish.You will need a floury not waxy potato that mashes well. A good all rounder is Morris Piper.
  • A little milk of any kind to poach the fish and then add to the potatoes
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • A small piece of horseradish root
  • A bay leaf
  • Fresh herbs or leaves if you have any. I used chives, parsley, or spinach would be good too.
  • A little flour of choice, I used chick pea (gram/garbanzo bean) flour
Optional for a crumb coating:
  • Bread crumbs
  • An egg
  1. Peel the potatoes,and cut into small pieces. The smaller the better as they will cook quicker.
  2. Place them in a saucepan. Cover them with cold water. Not too much, just enough to cover. Season and put them on the hob. 
  3. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until tender enough to mash. 
  4. Whilst the potatoes are cooking place the fish into a shallow pan if you have one. A small frying pan is perfect for this. Cover with a little milk, season and then poach the fish until tender. 
  5. Alternatively, as I've done may like to cook the fish on a plate on top of the pan whilst the potatoes are cooking.
  6. Drain the potatoes when cooked and place them into a bowl. 
  7. Remove the cooked fish and reserve to cool down a little for later.
  8. Mash the potatoes adding some of the milk (remembering to remove the bay leaf)and beat it really well so that there aren't any lumps. Don't make the mash too runny as it will be difficult to form the fish cakes. If it is too soft you can add a little of the flour to the mixture. 
  9. Flake in the fish and roughly mix. Don't mash it up too much it's good to keep a little texture. Grate in a little of the horseradish root for heat.
  10. Chop any herbs or chives and then add to the mixture. As all the ingredients are cooked you may like to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. 
  11. Divide the mixture into as many cakes as you want. I am sometimes a bit overgenerous with sizes. Form each one into a flat cake. Dust with a little flour then place on a plate lined with baking parchment. If making lots I would layer them up with paper in between each layer. Put in the fridge to chill for a little while before cooking.
  12. If using crumbs. Prepare your crumbs. Beat the egg and pour onto a plate. Then dip the floured cakes into egg and then crumb mixture. Then chill
  13. Finally pour a little oil into a frying pan and cook the cakes for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and crunchy. Leave on each side at least two minutes before turning as they will break up.
Sweet Pepper sauce. 


  • Four small or two medium sized peppers. About 200-220g. Choose red, yellow or orange peppers for a sweet sauce. Green ones are not as ripe and consequently not as sweet. They have a slightly bitter taste.
  • Tomato puree
  • One banana shallot
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper
  • A little oil of choice. I used olive oil

  1. Peel the shallot and slice finely. Pour a little oil into a frying pan and cook until tender.
  2. Peel and crush or finely chop the garlic, add to the pan and cook.
  3. Wash, deseed and finely chop the peppers and add to the pan. Spoon in some tomato puree and cook until tender. You make like to add a little hot water or stock. If making to serve with the fish cakes, you could use a little of the potato water.
  4. The sauce is ready when all the ingredients are soft and unctuous. You can blend it to a smooth sauce or keep it rustic as I did. 
This is a sweet sauce but you can soon pep it up with by adding either fresh or dried chillies when cooking. It works well with the crunchy fish cakes and other seasonal vegetables, and would be just as good with pasta. 

... I must look for that little pan...sure I saw it when we were unpacking...


  1. Totally understand your excitement about gardening, Debby! I don't think we can get Basa around here but the recipe sounds wonderful. Wonder how it would work with our native whitefish?


    1. Hi Jane,I think it would work with any white fish or even oily or smoked fish like salmon or trout...

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  3. Hello Debby
    you have a fantastic garden, to grow a garden is addictive !!
    I think your house is finished, it looks very cosy.
    And your garden is also beautiful, you have to make a garden tour in photos.
    Have a happy week !!

    1. Hi Montse,
      It's good to hear from you. Thank you.The house is almost finished now. But there is still quite a bit of decorating and sorting out to do. But most of the hard work has been done. Now it's the fun part.
      I must do a garden tour soon.
      Have fun.

  4. I love imagining you as a little girl with your own garden patch! I didn't cultivate a love of gardening but my sister did. I followed my mom in the knitting arena.

    1. Thanks Karen, It's weird how I can lose time in the garden.It must be in my genes from my mum who also loved gardening and my paternal grandfather who grew vegetables and sweet peas. In the summer when we went to visit my grandmother would make salads using tomatoes and lettuce from the garden. Those were the days.
      Happy that you followed your mum's love of knitting.
      Have a good week.